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Thursday, May 26, 2005

To the Marketplace, my minions!

(also entitled Why I Will Get Burned At The Stake)

'It'd be our subcultural expedition!' Jan proclaimed.

I was noticeably less enthusiastic. After weeks of insistent whining, pestering and bugging by one of my students of the decibel level and frequency that prompts martial homocide (or at least aggravated domestic violence) in households worldwide, I finally caved.

And with the assurance of like-minded company (my unfortunate associate Jan), we took a deep breath and took the plunge into the nortorious, infamous, treacherous waters of City Harvest.

Over 3,000 souls packed into an auditorium 4 stories underground. The electric band onstage dutifully assaulted our eyedrums. The flashing colour strobe lights finished off our other remaining senses. Youths, teenagers, young adults were jumping, singing, stretching out their arms, their eyes shut and faces grimacing in obvious effort.

In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Belief can be distilled into a liquor and Mr. Jacquel, a modern incarnation of ancient Egyptian god Anubis who runs a mortuary with his partner Mr. Ibis - also the god Troth - warily observes, "Jesus does pretty good over here."

Having travelled halfway across the island to ulu Boon Lay and in the intrepid spirit of our subcultural expedition, we paid careful attention to the entire duration of the sermon - all 2 hours of it, given by a pastor (a Rev. Kong Hee) with a Texan twang, sporting a tweed grey business suit I think God will want to have a word with him about.

To surmise the 2 hour endurance test (I wonder how much of the sermon the teens actually listen into - I can barely get them to pay attention to an hour of teaching): there are 7 pillars holding up society. These are: Family, Religion, Education, Government, Arts, Media and Business. In Singapore, Christianity has done very well in the above two (Family and Religion).

Curious that there was no mention of science and technology as foundations of society. Then again, I doubt the Church and the Sciences have been on good terms since the latter propsed that the Earth revolved around the Sun and people evolved from apes.

Dare say science and tech not important in Singapore? Later City Harvest kena sued by A*STAR then they knoe.

However, sayeth the Rev. Kong Hee, this is not enough. Religion is not just about transforming people, friends or family. It's about changing societies and nations! We must push our influence into the other 'pillars' of Media, the Arts, Government, Education and Business - collectively known as The Marketplace.

Ay, sorry ah. Isn't that a tad dangerous, bordering on religious fundamentalism: when religion ceases being a personal matter and becomes a state-governed issue? Courtsey of en.wikipedia.org:
"Very often religious fundamentalists, in all religions, are politically aware. They feel that legal and government processes must recognise the way of life they see as prescribed by God and set forth in Scripture."
The Pastor continues: promoting Christianity need not only fall on the 1% of pastors and priests, we need more influencial people to push the religion to the masses. We need to make religion more accessible to the people, through the Marketplace.

Sayeth the Rev. Kong Hee, 'Jesus wore the modern-day equivalent of a business suit. That is why I'm dressed like this. I want to be like Jesus! Hallejulah!'

Something seems amiss when Jesus gets an Extreme Makeover going from humble carpenter to Donald Trump.

The pastor proceeded to give many examples from the Bible of people Jesus met and formed Marketplace business contacts with, including tax collectors - which happened to the most depised people in society at the point in time, so I wonder what kind of connections Jesus was making. Not to mention what kind of argument Rev. Kong Hee was making.

Rev. Kong Hee also says Jesus attended high-class functions and banquets to further his Marketplace influence.

From Donald Trump, Jesus now become wedding singer liddat. I dunno leh, if Jesus so well-connected and popular, why he still crucified ah?

Apparently, according to Rev. Kong Hee, God thinks the whole Marketplace idea is great so God knows alot of multi-millionaries that have their own helicopters and 5-star hotels (cue: 3000 'wooo's and 'ahhh's - amazing how sensitive their ears are to some words). And God likes his multi-storey multi-complex stadiums (churches too small and so yesterday alreade) so much that he bestows great wealth of those who want to build some for him.

Like in this example Rev. Kong Hee gives, this businessman wants to build a super stadium dedicated to God in the middle of urban Jakarta. He owns a field with tons of coal underneath but the price of coal is so low it's not worthwhile to mine it and make money.

So how? (This is where Rev. Kong Hee sounds really excited) God answers this guy's prayers. Hundreds of miners in China die in multiple mining accidents forcing all the mines in the country to close. The price of coal goes up, giving the guy a profit margin to mine his coal! Hallejulah!

I've been to Sunday school as a kid. My parents are Christian. Although my knowledge of the religion is nothing to boast of, I've come to expect something from a church service. It's a vague, indefinate impression, formed more of instinct than acquired lore.

The idea of a church, of a place of worship cannot be seperated from a higher sense of spirituality, of holiness. This loftiness and tradition might not appeal to the 'hip and in' crowd. The younger generation might not respect or enjoy the rituals of the church. But that shouldn't matter. God's house deserves a sanctity, a dignified detachment that preserves and elevates.

Mass appeal or popular marketing shouldn't be a church's main agenda.

Oh wait, in the future, maybe there won't be any churches. Only auditoriums, stadiums and raves. The pastor made it a point to emphasise that City Harvest is moving to the Singapore Expo. Singapore Expo leh! Can seat 7,000 people you know! Shiok right? Got more space to jump up and down.

I did not see a single cross in that auditorium.

en at 10:10 pm